Three-peat

Jason Saitta blows past competition to win 3rd straight Steamboat Marathon

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— Those who lagged far behind Jason Saitta in the Steamboat Marathon Sunday finished in a storm.

About an hour after Saitta crossed the finish line, a single-file line of runners were still trucking the last leg of the race on U.S. 40 East through rain, wind and lightning.

The rain no doubt cooled down the laggards, as they finished the 26.2-mile run that began at Hahns Peak Village and ended at the county courthouse.

For Saitta, a 23-year-old runner from Northglenn, it was the third time in as many years he blew out the competition in Steamboat.

Steve Krebs, who was No. 2 for the second straight year, had nothing but praise for Saitta, who cut 21 seconds off his time from last year.

Saitta finished in two hours, 45 minutes and 55 seconds to take first. He is now the reigning three-time champion.

Krebs, a 38-year-old runner from Wheat Ridge, was second at 2:49:33.

"Jason led from 10 feet off the line," Krebs said. "He took off and he was gone. I could see the guy (during the race), but he's just awesome.

"If you've got to lose, that's the guy to lose to," he said.

Saitta started off slow, then paced himself with another runner from miles 6 through 11, he said.

He managed to gain the lead for good on an uphill near the end of that five-mile stretch.

Saitta, who completed his 10th marathon Sunday, is now setting his sights on the Chicago Marathon, which takes place Oct. 7.

The Steamboat Marathon, Saitta said, is his favorite.

As he made his final strides toward the finish line, a large group of fans gave him a rousing applause.

He was well aware of the support from the crowd, as well as from the runners, he said

"I noticed that," Saitta said. "There were actually people on the course that knew my name."

Saitta's fastest time in the Steamboat Marathon is 2:41:23, which he did in 1999.

He has done the local marathon only three times, winning it on each of those occasions.

Two Steamboat Springs men placed among the top 30 Andrew Picking, 22nd place in 3:29:53, and Brian Sieve, 24th in 3:30:51.

In the women's marathon, 28-year-old Connilee Walter of Colorado Springs claimed the top spot in 3:15:23.

Walter, who was fifth in last year's race, credits a strong showing this year at the Boston Marathon to her placing No. 1 in the Steamboat race.

She did Boston in about 3:23:00, she said.

Like Saitta, Walter was grateful for the warm welcome at the finish line.

"It is the most awesome feeling in the world," Walter said. "Everybody was incredible. I can't believe how they cheered for me."

Jennifer Schubert-Akin was the first Steamboat woman across the line in the marathon. She finished ninth with a time of 3:32:46. Gretchen Wright of Steamboat finished in 22nd place with a time of 3:48:42, one second and one place ahead of another local woman, Jenna Gruben. Stefanie Hughes gave Steamboat four women in the top 30 as she finished 29th in 3:50:26.

Local runner Tenadore Dean came in second in the 10K Race for the second year in a row.

Jon Sinclair of Fort Collins was first in the 10K at 34:11, followed by Dean at 34:55. Fifteen-year-old Davis Miller of Steamboat got a top-10 finish with a time of 41:43.

Noreen Shea of Littleton won the women's 10K in 39:52. Tracey Tyson was the highest finisher from Steamboat, finishing ninth in 45:48.

Lance Denning of Boulder won the men's half-marathon in 1:14:06. The highest finisher from Steamboat Springs was Rich Hager, who was seventh in 1:22:36.

Catriona Dowling of Boulder won the women's half-marathon in 1:25:50. Kimberly Westerberg of Steamboat Springs led the local contingent, finishing 20th in 1:42:03.

Results were not available for the Children's Fun Run a half-mile course on a paved road that started and ended at the courthouse said Kim Mitchell of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

However, Greg Hart, a 9-year-old who was among the top finishers, explained why he did so well.

"I listened to what one of the boys said: 'Save your energy until you get to the straightaway,'" Hart said.

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